How paradoxical it is to receive a recognition such as the Nobel Prize and to lack the freedom to go to Oslo to collect it. And yet, this has happened many times in the history of the Nobel Peace Prize. Here are 5 laureates who had this problem.

1. Thomas Woodrow Wilson, 1919

Thomas Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president of the United States is the least dramatic person in this list. Suffering a debilitating stroke in 1919, he could not attend the ceremony but got his prize the following year (1920).

2. Carl von Ossietzky, 1935

Carl von OssietzkyCredit: Unknown Author

Carl von Ossietzky was an unfortunate man. Being a pacifist, he exposed the illegal German re-armament. This made him a Nobel Peace Prize laureate but also a treator for his country, which cost him his freedom and eventually his life.

Arrested in 1931 and in 1933, he was sill imprisoned in 1935 when he was awarded the Nobel Peace prize. He died in 1938 of a tuberculosis he had contracted in the concentration camps.

The website notes that "the German press was forbidden to comment on the granting of the prize to Ossietzky, and the German government decreed that in the future no German could accept any Nobel Prize."

3. Andrei Sakharov, 1975

Andrei Sakharov was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975 for his "struggle for human rights, for disarmament, and for cooperation between all nations" with "peace as its final goal" but could not collect it as he was declined the right to leave the Soviet Union. 

A Small Note about Mother Teresa

Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, commonly known as Mother Teresa was the Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 1979 but refused to attend, saying the money would be better spent for the poor. 

Later that year, she indeed used the money to hold a dinner for homeless people.

4. Aung San Suu Kyi, 1991

Aung San Suu KyiCredit: Htoo Tay ZarAung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her "non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights" but was under house arrest at that time and could not attend the ceremony or receive her prize.

After international pressure, she was finally released in the end of 2010. In 2012, during her visit in Europe, she could finally collect her prize, more than 20 years after she was awarded it.

Also in 2012, she won the Burmese elections and is now leading the lower house of the Burmese parliament.



      Photo Credit: Htoo Tay Zar

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A Small Note About Shirin Ebadi

Shirin Ebadi was able to attend the ceremony of the prize she received in 2003 but it is worth mentioning that since then, the Iranian Revolutionary Court has confiscated her medal and diploma and frozen her bank account.

5. Liu Xiaobo, 2010

The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese human rights activist and this was source to many polemics as Liu Xiaobo was imprisoned. The reason for his latest arrest is "Charged with spreading a message to subvert the country and authority".

Liu Xiaobo is still in prison today (until 2020) which makes him the only Nobel Peace Prize laureate behind bars.


These laureates show that winning a Nobel Prize is not a warrant for recognition by everyone, not event a warrant for freedom. They are also the proof that the Nobel Peace Prize committee is not afraid of polemics and is not going to change its mind due to pressure from a particular goverment or country.

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